We had a cab driver a few days ago who had a little to say about God and Jesus, and a great deal to say about Satan and the rotten state of affairs in America. He was born and raised in Russia, son of devout Orthodox parents, but since coming to America almost thirty years ago he has become a Baptist. Not, he said, that denominations really mean that much.
He ranted about the lack of civility among the young, the failure of public schools to teach about God and Jesus, and Satan, he had heard, was considered a legitimate religious figure by the courts, and, therefore, worship of him was constitutionally protected. The devil was capturing the youth, and both they and the country are going to hell, literally. It was only a half hour cab ride in rush hour traffic, but he packed a lot into it.
I took a stab at asking him what he thought about God’s reconciling love as seen in Jesus’ life and work. It didn’t slow him down. He was a believer for whom the devil was at the center of everything, the ruler of this world (or at least of America), and we were in deep, deep trouble. We had a local pastor like that a few years back. For him, standing in the breach to wage war with the devil was everything, and it made everybody, and everything in society, God’s potential enemy. He and his followers would be God’s staunch defenders against the onslaught. The rest of us were either weaklings, or, possibly, on Satan’s side, not to be trusted.
It must be a miserable way to live, filled with never ending fear, anger, and distrust of God’s ability to be God. What is going on in the mind of someone who claims to have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, but whose life, death, and resurrection has only limited one-on-one efficacy, having surrendered all else to the devil. That’s it isn’t it? Jesus is is a one at a time savior who snatches the few out of the jaws of evil while leaving the rest to perish. Because why? Because he can’t do any better than that? Because his power is limited? Because the battle between God and Satan is not yet over, and the outcome remains in doubt? How gnostic can you get?
Not only is such a faith self destructive, it prevents its adherents from acting as agents of God’s healing, reconciling presence. They cannot be Christ for others. They cannot receive Christ from others. It denies that the Church is the continuing body of Christ continuing the work of Christ. Moreover, it rejects the possibility that society will, or can, do anything good. That kind of nonsense has been around for centuries, but, when I am confronted with it by some “true believer,” I wonder if such a faith isn’t about as satanic as one can get while masquerading as a Christian.